how to get along with your most annoying coworkers

Unless you’ve worked alone for your whole career or you’re extremely tolerant, you’ve probably had your share of annoying coworkers – the busybody who peppers you with intrusive questions, the slacker who does no work but somehow takes all the credit for yours, and a whole cast of annoying others.

Although it can feel like frustrating coworkers are just part of having a job, often there are ways to deal with them more productively and minimize how much aggravation they add to your day. Let’s look at some of the most common types of irritating coworkers and how you can neutralize their most annoying characteristics.

Meeting monopolizers

Good luck trying to have a short meeting or even stick to an agenda when you’ve got this type in the room! They’ll monopolize every meeting with long, rambling tangents, comments on every item even if just to explain (at length) why they agree, and have never heard a rhetorical question they don’t want to answer.

How to deal with them: Speak up! Meeting monopolizers get away with their behavior because no one feels comfortable redirecting the conversation. Be the one who saves the rest of your colleagues (and rescues the meeting) by saying things like:

  • “I want to be sure we get through all the items on the agenda, so let’s move forward to the next topic.”
  • “We only have 30 minutes scheduled for this meeting, so I’m going to ask people to hold comments until the end unless they’re crucial.”
  • “That’s great input, but it’s outside the scope of our meeting today, so let’s come back to Topic X.”

You might also consider talking to your coworker privately after the next meeting where it happens. Say something like, “I’ve noticed that we’re having trouble getting through all the topics we need to discuss and sticking to our scheduled time. Can you help me make sure that we stick to the agenda and the time we’ve set aside?”


Busybodies want – and feel entitled to – more information about your life than you feel comfortable sharing, and they can be incredibly persistent when they want details about your love life, your salary, or even your reproductive plans. They’re the ones who will ask if you’re pregnant (or trying), scrutinize your lunch choices, and demand to know why you’re not bringing a date to the holiday party.

How to deal with them: The most important thing you can do when dealing with a busybody is to remember that you’re not obligated to share personal details if you don’t want to. People often reward busybodies with answers because they feel rude not responding, but there’s nothing rude about declining to share overly personal information. It’s fine to say, politely but firmly, that a topic is off-limits. For instance, you might have these phrases loaded up and ready to use:

  • “That’s awfully personal!”
  • “Why do you ask?”
  • “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”
  • “I would rather not talk about my dating life / my birth control choices / my upcoming surgery.”
  • “That’s not something I’d like to discuss.”
  • “That’s between me and my husband/wife/accountant/doctor.”


While you’re hard at work, slackers spend their time in hours-long texting sessions, running a fantasy football leagues, and watching every available YouTube video on cats. It’s obvious to you and the rest of your coworkers that they’re not pulling their weight, but somehow they’re getting away with it.

How to deal with them: You’ve got two choices here: You can ignore it or you can speak up about. In most cases, ignoring it is the better choice. For one thing, while it’s possible that your boss is just overlooking it, it’s also possible that she’s addressing it behind the scenes – and you usually wouldn’t know about it if that’s the case. Moreover, if it’s not affecting your work, it’s ultimately not your business. However, if it does affect your ability to do your job (for instance, if you’re dependent on your coworker to finish her work before you can do your own, or if you’re routinely having to do extra work to cover for her), then it makes sense to speak up. Ideally, you’d first speak up to the coworker directly, and then if that doesn’t work, bring your manager into the loop, keeping the focus on how it’s affecting your own productivity.


Chatterboxes talk .. a lot. They’re often particularly talented at roping you into long conversations when you’re on deadline or about to leave the office, and they tend not to take cues that you’re trying to end the conversation. They’re also often kind people, which makes you feel guilty that you’ve started cringing when you see them approaching you.

How to deal with them: Remember that you’re not obligated to let someone cut into time that you need to be spending on something else, and it’s perfectly okay to explain that you can’t talk. Try any of these:

  • “I’m actually just in the middle of finishing something. Can I stop by your office later, when I’m at a better stopping point?”
  • “I’ve got to run to a meeting that’s about to start.”
  • “I’m on deadline, so I better get back to this.”

You can also try setting a time limit for the conversation at the very start,by saying something like, “I’ve only got a minute to talk.” And if the interruption is in person, you can physically signal an end to the conversation by standing up with some papers in your hand and saying, “I’ve got to run these down the hall.”


If you’ve ever worked with someone who exudes negativity, you know how draining it can be to interact with them. Suggestions, new projects, new hires, and especially new managers – all are terrible in a grump’s eyes, and they’ll make sure that you know it.

How to deal with them: If you’re the grump’s manager, you should address the negativity head-on. Otherwise, it can have a corrosive effect on your team over time; negativity has a way of spreading, and people may become reluctant to bring up new ideas or even share their enthusiasm. But if you’re not in a position of authority over your office grump, one of the best ways to respond is to have a sense of humor about it. If you can see this coworker as your own office Eeyore (or Stanley from TV’s The Office), it can make the constant negative remarks easier to tolerate.

It’s also worth remembering that happy people don’t behave like this, and trying to cultivate sympathy for what’s clearly a troubled mindset can sometimes make dealing with difficult people easier.

Loud talkers, music crankers, speaker phone abusers, and other noisy coworkers

You’re trying to concentrate but your coworker’s penchant for loud gales of laugher and shrieking make it tough for you to focus – every day. Or you’ve got a coworker who believes in taking all phone conversations on speaker phone or who cranks the radio or sings loudly or won’t stop whistling – or any other ongoing distraction that makes you yearn to work in a silent monastery.

How to deal with them: When you have noisy coworkers who make it tough for you to focus on your job, the best response is to simply be direct. Most noisy coworkers don’t realize that they’re causing a distraction, so rather than stewing over it, speak up!

Say something like, “Jane, do you think you could turn your music down? I’m having trouble focusing. Thank you.”  Or, “Bob, you  probably don’t realize how much the sound carries from the speaker phone, but it’s making it hard for me to hear my own calls. Would you mind taking calls off speaker phone, or closing the door if you need to use it?”

If you’re hesitant to speak up, keep in mind that if you were distracting someone else, you’d presumably want them to tell you so that you could correct it. And sure, not every coworker will feel that way, but most will – and it’s a very reasonable request to make in a professional setting.


Know-it-alls have an opinion on everything, informed or not, and love telling you how to do your job better, where you went wrong in today’s meeting, why the client won’t like your presentation, and even what kind of raise you’re likely to get this year.

How to deal with them: Know-it-alls’ power lies in the attention you give them, so your best response here is to let their unsolicited opining go unacknowledged as much as possible. Let their unwanted opinions and advice roll right off your back. If you have to reply with something, don’t gratify them by getting drawn into a discussion; instead, just say, “Thanks, I’ll think about that.”  You can also look for ways to cut them off before the get started. If you sense a know-it-all is about to launch into an unwelcome soliloquy, change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation.

{ 162 comments… read them below }

  1. Stef*

    Yeah, dealing with a Know-it-all the moment.
    If I see another “IMHO” (which is never humble, by the way), I may freak out.
    But yeah, “I’ll think about that” may be a better solution. Thanks, Alison!

    1. Puddin*

      Very recently a workmate asked me what IMHO means (I used it in an email). My response: In My Humble Opinion…which really means ‘I know better than everyone else’.

      In my defense, I think this is the only time I have ever used the term and at least I was honest ;0)

      1. Jeanne*

        I think it’s best to use IMO not IMHO. It’s more honest. At work, I might skip using it. Isn’t my email my opinion? I’d rather say I suggest we do this or I think the way we should handle it.

        1. Stef*

          This. It’s always your opinion anyway.
          I am all for contributing and defending your ideas when it’s needed, but if you spend the day replying to e-mails highlighting what you think is wrong in what anybody else is doing and being negative on the possible results 99% of the time, you may not be contributing in the best of ways.
          Moreover, this guy is under my supervision, so replying this way when I give him an assignments is starting to get annoying at best…

        2. nevercanthinkofagoodhandle*

          I think it’s perfectly fine to say “in my humble opinion” if someone is specifically asking for your opinion. It’s a way to say “I don’t have a horse in this race, but I’ll share my thoughts because you’ve asked me to.”

  2. Nerd Girl*

    I’m not sure what category my annoying co-worker falls under. She does this thing where she has got to be the one to tell people the news. I’ll sit down at my desk at the start of the day, haven’t done more than log into my screen when she’s telling me the details of the emails I’ve got sitting in my in-box. She’s cc’d on them and usually gets in three or four minutes before me. Just enough time to read the mail before I do. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! I’ve told her not to do it, but she still does. Sometimes she gets all passive aggressive and will tell another co-worker the details in a voice loud enough that she knows I hear it. She even glances over with a smile to make sure I’ve heard.

  3. Elizabeth West*

    I’m a Chatterbox. *hangs head* I try not to be, or at least save it for the lunchroom. I’ve also been the Grump, but I have worked hard on not doing that anymore. It helped to get out of a job that had turned sour.

    Off topic, but holiday begins in one hour! And when I come back, I’ll be the annoying coworker who hops about saying, “My long-ass holiday wasn’t long enough!”
    (j/k, hee hee!)

    1. Jen RO*

      Me too… luckily so is most of my team. Well, it’s good for my social life at least – I tend to stay late at work to make up for the time spent chatting.

    2. Mimmy*

      I think I’ve been both The Grump and The Chatterbox myself. Particularly the Grump…I have a habit of not hiding my true feelings very well.

      Have fun on your trip!!!

  4. E.R*

    My toxic co-worker’s last day was Friday! He was a Know-it-All and Slacker, and oh so condescending. He would come up with “big ideas” and then lose interest in them within a few weeks, including a time he got approval to hire someone, and then stopped managing the poor woman when she wasn’t sufficiently adoring, who then became my (terrific) employee. He didn’t come to the office for almost three months over the summer (we are allowed to work from home but this is excessive) and while we were approaching a deadline, he informed me he would be on his family’s boat that week and unavailable. I told our CEO he either needed to manage this person to help and perform the same way the rest of the team does, or fire him outright. And here we are, with him gone. It’s so lovely, I don’t even care about the additional workload.

    1. Natalie*

      My awful co-worker has one more week! I. Cannot. Wait. I am working on being appropriately subdued at our bon voyage happy hour because he’s being laid off, and then I’m having celebratory drinks alone on his last day.

      He’s more of an Incompetent than a Slacker – he tries, but he’s just bad at a lot of stuff and unfortunately was allowed to skate for way too long.

  5. Adam*

    My catch-all: Headphones. I’m very fortunate that my job lets me where them. There’s no way I could have survived this long without ’em.

    1. Clever Name*

      Yep. I love my earbuds! Unfortunately, my new officemate forgets every single day that I wear them every single day (partly to drown out noise coming from her quadrant of the office), so she’ll start talking to me while I have my earbuds in and my back to her (because I’m facing my workstation). When I realize she’s talking to me rather than on the phone or talking with another coworker, I yank out my earbuds and say, “I”m sorry. Were you saying something to me?” Then she giggles and says, “Oooh! I always forget you wear those!”. It’s getting really annoying. Ugh. Part of me wants to never respond to her when I’m wearing them, you know to train her to check if I’m wearing them before she starts saying something to me, but that seems really rude, so I just grit my teeth and try to deal with the interruption.

      1. Squirrel!*

        How would that be less rude than what she does to you? She doesn’t have the right to interrupt you while you’re trying to work, unless it’s work-related (and I’m sure it most likely isn’t every time she does it). She ignore her repeatedly until she gets your attention. That’s what I do when I have my headset on. It’s on my left ear, but people can only see my right ear, so if they start talking while I’m on the phone or listening to messages, I just ignore them until they go away, and I’ll contact them later. Now people are starting to look at my phone to see if the “engaged” light is on before beginning to speak.

      2. Gwen*

        I would probably ignore her, honestly. If she really needs to talk to you, she’ll come over and get your attention, and like you said, you want to train her that earbuds = don’t talk to me unless necessary. If you think it would be too rude to just start ignoring her, can you just say “Hey, just so you know, I can’t really hear you when I have my earbuds in, so if you need me, come around front to flag me down, thanks!” then ignore with clear conscience ;)

        1. Clever Name*

          Yeah, that’s a good idea about making a blanket statement. I really can’t hear anything but muffled office sounds when I have my earbuds in, which is the entire point. I have another coworker who also wears headphones, and when I need to talk to her about something work-related, I make sure I can wave at her (in a friendly way) so she sees me rather than just launching in to what I was going to say.

          That’s the other thing that gets me about my new officemate. Before she moved offices, she would walk by and say in an almost whisper, “Hi Clever Name”, which I would normally not hear, due to earbuds, so then she would turn around and stick only her head in my office, so I could just barely see her out of my peripheral vision and start talking about how she forgets about my ear buds, at which point I would yank them out and try not to look pissed and annoyed. I’ve thought about switching to huge over ear headphones, but I don’t think they’d muffle background noise as effectively.

      3. AnonEMoose*

        My headphones are pretty visible – I don’t find earbuds comfortable. What I’ve asked my coworkers to do if they need my attention is to either say my name or knock on the end of my desk. I don’t know if either of those strategies would work for you, but it might be worth telling her “Hey, coworker, if you need to talk to me, please just start by saying my name – then I know you’re talking to me and can take out the earbuds!”

        And if she can’t/won’t abide by that, ignore her.

        1. Clever Name*

          I’m actually thinking of making a sign. I really would just prefer she make it obvious that she’s trying to communicate with me, because sharing an office means I make a conscious effort to ignore phone or other conversations that don’t involve me. Even when I’m not wearing my earbuds it’s sometimes hard to tell if she’s on the phone or getting my attention because I have to physically turn around to look at her.

      4. MaryMary*

        The owner of our company is terribly confused that so many of us where headphones while working at our cubes. For the longest time, he thought we were taking dictation, but he couldn’t figure out why we had so much transcribing to do. He has probably never worked in a cube and hasn’t had to share an office in over 30 years, so even when we explained earbuds or headphones are they only way to listen to music or block out coworkers’ conversations, I’m still not sure he understood.

    2. Lizabeth*

      Headphones are a lifesaver. I’ve done some “training” with my next door cubiemate (we don’t have walls going to the ceiling so you hear EVERYTHING) If she calls over the wall, I don’t respond so she has to get up and come to my door :)

      It’s for my amusement more than anything else since this one is Walking Clueless permanently and not capable of retaining much for long periods of time.

    3. Gene*

      A former coworker was the person everyone went to to tell her about the day’s news/how their weekend was/the funny thing their cat did last night/etc and it was seriously inturrupting her workflow. The real problem was that she refused to be direct and tell people she was busy because of all that female training to be nice everybody here keeps harping on. But we created a technological solution; she used a headset regularly with one of those flashing lights to let everyone know she was on the phone. I just cobbed up a power supply to it with a switch and when she wanted to be left alone, she’d turn it on. It worked amazingly well, the chatterboxes would come by her office, start to go in, see the flashing lights and leave.

        1. Call Me*

          That’s what we need in our cube farm. There is nothing on our headsets to indicate we are on the phone and we are a call centre.

  6. BadPlanning*

    Sometimes I’m the Thunder Stealer. Someone will be part way through an explanation and I’ll interrupt with the solution or key problem. Something like:
    Coworker: Customer said the teapots kept melting on their own. I checked their chocolate mix. I reviewed their storage procedures. Nothing added up — finally, I asked about their kitchen appliance layout —
    Me: Oh! Were they storing their teapots in a cupboard right above the stove?
    Coworker: Uh. Yes. They were.

    I think it’s partially that I want to appear clever and partially I just foolishly blurt out the answer or my brainstorming idea. Looking clever is fine when someone asks and you answer. Interrupting people makes you look like a jerk. I’m trying to reform!

    1. ClaireS*

      Recognizing the problem is 1/2 the battle. I’m the Interupter- similar to yours. When I get excited about something (which is often as I’m an excitable person who is passionate about my job), I have a hard time holding back and waiting for others to finish.

      It’s not all the time but I’m especially bad with one colleague who tends to be a bit long winded (I’m also impatient, shocker). He calls me on it and that’s actually really helpful. I try to be really congnizant of it so I can break myself of the habit.

      1. Layla*

        Sometimes I think it’s a break in the person’s speech , and pipe in.
        But it’s not. The person was going on :(

    2. Gwen*

      I recently found out that I’m an interrupter/potential thunder stealer in my personal life. Until my roommate went, “Do you realize you always finish my sentences?” I had no idea. It was like the glass shattering moment on HIMYM. So I’m trying to be extra careful not to do it at work…I don’t mean to be obnoxious/cut someone off, it just happens when I’m invested in the conversation and feel like we’re on the same page.

    3. the gold digger*

      See, I don’t see that as a problem at all! You went straight to the solution rather than listen to a long-winded story about it. And I am the story teller! (I actually have a note taped to my computer screen that says, “No stories!” because my boss has told me a few times that he wants bullet points, not a novel.)

      I would not be offended by someone at work jumping in to get to the point like that. At home, however, I want to tell the darn story and I want my husband to listen to it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh boy, I now realize I have a story teller in my department. I often jump in and cut to the chase because he like to take the scenic route while we need the direct route. Great that you recognize it and have adjusted to your boss’s preference. I can give too many details sometimes and have to reign myself in.

      2. Gene*

        I know we aren’t married to each other, but there are times when I’m not sure.

        So many times I have wanted to say, “Is there a point to this story? Please get to it!”

        And I bet you hate it when he watches 10 minutes of a show like L&O, says, “X did it.”, and walks away.

      3. Bea W*

        HA! We have people like that, and I will start getting antsy in my seat trying to control myself from blurting out the conclusion.

      4. Clerica*

        I do this with my landlord lately. One night it was almost an hour past my bedtime and I was literally shaking, I was so tired. She caught me on my way back from the car and started this…saga. “Oh, Clerica. Right. Um…the trash didn’t get out in time to get picked up, so…well, what happened was that I fractured my [unintelligible], that’s when I fell off the front porch and got this bruise…I’ve been trying all these different doctors for my sleeping problem and I think what it was, was the medication made me so dizzy I miscalculated and missed a step…and so, uh, anyway, I called Johnny from down the street and first he had school, but then he came home early and brought the container to the curb, but I guess it wasn’t in time and…”

        Me: “Jane? Do you need me to bring the trash container back up the driveway? Do you want me to double check it gets out on Wednesday nights from now on in case Wakeen forgets again?”

        Her: “Oh, that would be great. See, it’s difficult when…”

        Me: “Excellent! Let me get that before I go in to bed.” *walks away*

    4. Betty*

      I’m guilty of being an interrupter. I just like to get straight to the point. If someone asks me if I understand a process and I tell them yes, I don’t want to sit through an explanation of the process! I’m trying to change, though!

      1. ClaireS*

        This is exactly what I do but sometimes I get so excited that I don’t actually understand the situation, I just think I do. It’s a big watch out for me.

      2. Sharon*

        Ugh, even worse than Storytellers are the Repeaters. I’ve encountered a few of those in my travels and they drive me nuts.

        R: (explains something in depth)
        me: Right, okay.
        R: (explains it again)
        me: Yes, I understand.
        R: (starts explanation a third time)
        me: trying not to look peeved while grinding my teeth

        Etc. It makes me wonder if I have a blank look on my face or something, otherwise why would they ignore my statements of agreement/understanding and keep talking? So I’ve been trying to maintain a more confident expression when dealing with people.

        1. Malissa*

          Repeat back to them. Your answers are so generic I wouldn’t know if you if you actually got the point or not.
          Instead of, “Right, okay” try “I see you put a lot of effort into designing that process for the teapot handles.”

          1. Magda*

            Yeah, I’ve been on both sides of this problem. My sister is a “Yeah, okay” person and while I don’t think she always means it this way, it can come across as nodding along until you shut up. Which is fair game if I’m talking about kitten videos, but sucks when you’re trying to communicate something of actual importance.

        2. chewbecca*

          I have that happen to me sometimes, too. I think it’s because I start planning how I’m going to use what I’m being told so I tend to sometimes look like I’m not paying attention, but I am.

        3. Aunt Vixen*

          I had a boss once who was a repeating storyteller. It was awful. There were two of us who were straight-up short-term contract temps on a team of about half a dozen other people who were temp-to-hire. The main differences were that they had bigger cubes to sit in and they got paid holidays while we did not. So one time overtime was approved in a week with a federal holiday in it, and along about Thursday the manager realized that his temp-to-perm people’s time was calculated differently from our temp-to-temps’ time; a lot of people had come in on Monday, but the long-term people were going to get their hourly rate on top of their holiday pay (so double time and a half, pretty sweet), whereas we temp types were only going to get our hourly rate full stop despite his earlier suggestion that everyone would get 2.5 time for the Monday. Guy spends five minutes explaining this at the other temp’s cube, which is about four minutes longer than the explanation needs and about three feet from my own cube–and then comes over to my cube and begins at the beginning as though there was no chance I (a) hadn’t heard him from next door or (b) couldn’t reach the conclusion on my own that his earlier suggestion defied all being-a-temp logic.

          I did cut him off after only a few words to assure him that I knew, understood, and was not unduly upset by the news that I was only going to get paid for the time I was actually at work. Otherwise he might have gone on all day. This was the man who once called us in to a 45-minute meeting about how it really wasn’t okay that productivity was down. As I was only a short-term contract temp, I had the least to lose by being the one to eventually raise my hand and say “Then … wouldn’t it help if we got back to work?”

        4. Pennalynn Lott*

          Sharon – My boyfriend is a repeater. And worse, he’ll add in extra details with each retelling so it just gets longer and longer and longer. I’ve asked him why he repeats himself — also wondering if I’ve had a blank look on my face or if he thought I just wasn’t getting it — and he has said, No, he’s confident I got it the first time, but he just can’t stop himself. He has ADD, so I wonder if that has something to do with it.

    5. Bea W*

      Guilty. I’m not trying to appear clever, but sometimes I get a thought in my head and it slides right out of my mouth in a moment of excitement.

    6. Natalie*

      Oh lord, I work with a Storyteller except it’s literally a blow-by-blow: “So he said [description of problem], and I asked [specific question], he says no, so I tell him” and on and on and on.

  7. HRC in NJ*

    I had to sit next to the chatterbox for a day between desks. (My department moves people around quite often.) I told him once during his morning vocal exercises that I was in the middle of something, and he said “oh, okay, no problem. I’ll let you get back to work now.” Then he says multiple times in sotto voice “don’t bother her, she’s busy.” I turned to him and forcefully said “knock it off!” and that was the end of that.

  8. Vee*

    I couldn’t help but look at the first picture and try to guess the annoying co-workers. …and then make up a story about all the office dynamics with that group.

  9. Bryce*

    Others I’ve run across and how I’ve dealt:

    The Late Bunch:
    Sometimes they’re late in getting to meetings/submitting work due to circumstances beyond their control, such as traffic, back-to-back meetings at opposite ends of the building, technology being uncooperative, etc. In these cases, I try to build in buffer time to account for these things. Other times, it’s from not understanding how being late affects others. Here, I’ve had success handling the late bunch by explaining how their lateness affects my productivity and that of the team as a whole, as in: “In order for us to have the final report to the client, I need you to give me X. If you don’t have X by 5 PM on such-and-such date, I won’t be able to get it to the print shop to include.”

    The Malodorous:
    Like the late bunch, sometimes it’s a circumstance people can’t control, other times it is. I’ve said this: “This sounds awkward, but can I ask you a question?” If yes, “Maybe I have an overly sensitive nose, but I’ve noticed you seem to have (insert bad smell, such as BO, garlic and boiled okra fish casserole lunch, etc.)” In some cases, folks genuinely don’t know that they’re giving off offensive smells, and take action.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      The one who couldn’t possibly have messes up ever…yup I had me one of those. So frustrating! ! She spent so much time defending herself over a little mistake it was ridiculous.

      1. Jen RO*

        Me too! (I posted about him in the open thread.) Nothing is ever his fault, not even the source control system shows his user ID. I’m slowly getting to teach him that it’s a Very Bad Thing.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Geez. Reading this thread … it’s like, I wonder how many memories I’m repressing due to unpleasant co-workers?

          I usually think of these people as “Have To Be Right”. No matter how blatantly they screwed up – they were actually right. I had one fellow working for me – a young new-hire – years ago who had it so bad that I think it was technically a form of mental illness. I get a headache just remembering him standing in my office doorway, explaining how I’d misinterpreted his “correct” action as being “wrong”. I’m usually an amazingly polite person, but it got to where I’d just shut the door in his face sometimes. And – of course – he was always quick to point out my mistakes.

          Come to think of it – I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but – the entire “I Have To Be Right” thing is something I encounter with depressing frequency.

  10. justin*

    I just sit there and work my tail off. I am social and polite if addressed but other than that I am just there to work. I am #1 on my sales team this quarter and I attribute those numbers to my work ethic and the fact that I lose myself in the job amd not in pointless side conversations about anything but work. But hey – to each his own.

  11. Betty*

    I’ve got a co-worker who complains about how busy he is but finds the time to stop in everyone’s office or cubicle to make small talk throughout the day. He doesn’t always introduce himself either, he’ll just pop in and start talking about last night’s Survivor episode, every single detail of it. I like to keep the peace so I usually entertain the conversation for a minute before telling him I need to finish whatever I’m working on. Headphones don’t even deter this guy.

    I’m a little bit of a grump. I find too much chatter distracting but I try to participate in office parties to offset the grumpiness.

    1. MaryMary*

      Oh, I have several coworkers who are soooooo busy and overwhelmed, but manage to have lots of time to chit-chat, gossip, post on Facebook, etc. At this point, it’s almost corporate culture, since our most senior account executive (in tenure, not age) complains all the time about how he’s answering email until 1am, but also manages to golf at least two times a week (tee times are never before 10 or after 2)

      1. chewbecca*

        Our person – who is thankfully gone now – was sooooo busy, but would take 15 minute smoke breaks every hour. It got to the point that I knew what time it was when she walked out to the lobby. And then she’d proceed to excessively smack her cigarette pack on her hand the entire time she was waiting for the elevator. But that might have been a bitch eating crackers thing.

        1. Clerica*

          She’s probably so dependent on the nicotine that she can’t function without it, so even if she didn’t go out for a smoke she’d lose the time anyway by having her concentration suffer. I can get that on one level, but on another it irks me that I’m making excuses for someone who didn’t take steps to prevent a dependency and/or won’t take steps to ameliorate it now.

  12. Lizabeth*

    Have you ever notice that no matter if you get rid of one annoying co-worker, another springs up in their place? It’s sort of like Whack-a-Mole.

    1. Clerica*

      There was some recent turnover at my job, and my boss and I were saying we wish we’d never asked Santa to get rid of Jane because now there’s Dani who makes Jane look tame.

    2. stellanor*

      My awful coworker (busybody + knowitall + big mean bully combo) left and one of my previously nice coworkers got more annoying.

      Alternately I was so busy dealing with Awful Coworker that I didn’t notice her more frustrating qualities.

  13. Cath in Canada*

    I work with a Meeting Monopolizer / Busybody / Know-it-all combo.

    I have Chatterbox tendencies myself. My last job was very isolating, so when I joined my current team I overcompensated in my joy at having other human beings to talk to. I’ve been here two years now and am doing pretty well at reining it in… most of the time, anyway

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      That’s how I am! I work pretty much alone throughout the day, so when I have a chance to visit a Chatterbox, I welcome the human interaction

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting. I don’t have anything to do with photo selection (which hopefully you already know from those weird photos AOL uses), but you’re absolutely right that it’s not ideal. From what I know of the staff they’re, they’re a largely female staff, which doesn’t explain it necessarily but might add context?

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve noticed that at DailyWorth articles. I don’t know if they think their readers are all women or what. But I don’t think they are implying that all our problem co-workers are women.

    3. Traveller*

      DailyWorth is a website targeted at women:

      DailyWorth is the leading digital media company for ambitious, professional women. We are the premier platform for women on all things related to money, career and entrepreneurship.

      We’re closing the income gap by enabling women to reach their maximum earning potential.

      We’re closing the wealth gap by empowering women to invest and build wealth to fund the lives they want.

      We’re helping women get the most value for their money, whether they’re purchasing products that enrich their lives, supporting causes they care about or investing in companies they believe in.

      We publish exclusive, expert content daily to more than one million female financial decision makers. Explore the website and sign up to get our tips and tools delivered daily to your inbox.

  14. Betty*

    Oh! And how about The Scatterbrained? The one who is always in a hurry, fails to meet multiple deadlines, disorganized, asks you to prepare documents 3 minutes before a meeting that was proposed a month ago, looks at you like you have two heads when you mention projects that were brought up weeks ago, and says “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” multiple times a day.

    1. Magda*

      My worst coworker EVER was The Scatterbrained combined with The Gaslighter. The one who would forget to tell you a deadline, and then the day of the deadline, would swear she’d told you all along that it was due at 3:00 today.

      To this day, she is the only person that if my current place of employment ever hired her, I would seriously consider quitting on the spot.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Argh. I can handle Scatterbrained but Gaslighters will ruin my month. I’ve noticed there’s both ‘positive’ (“I told you ____”) and ‘negative’ (“I never said ____”) Gaslighting.

          1. rlm*

            I had a boss once who was a consistent Gaslighter, and one time I actually had an email proving what she had asked me to do. Her response? Somehow she twisted it to into me having “misinterpreted” her email. I am soooooo glad I don’t work for her anymore.

  15. anon+in+tejas*

    is it possible that my old boss was like almost all of these– all together, depending on the day?

  16. LF*

    My assistant (whom I have no hiring/firing authority over) is a chatterbox and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me all of the inane, boring details of her life whenever she has the opportunity. It is the only part of my job (which is generally considered to be in a stressful profession) that actively negatively affects my morale. I have been nice and I have been direct, but what do you do with a woman who walks into your office and directly next to you to tell you a five minute story about the kittens that her husband found and her future plans for taking care of them? She somehow thinks that because I am young and generally mild-mannered, I’m an OK target for her soul-sucking, ennui-inducing never-ending stories.

    1. LF*

      P.S. She has also been told (by many others) in performance reviews that she talks far too much. Apparently it does not matter.

        1. FreelanceVandal*

          Just be sure to rough up the forehead with a wood rasp so that the clue will have a better chance of sticking.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Have you been direct about the broader pattern (as opposed to something specific to the moment like “I’m on deadline right now”)? For instance, could you say: “Jane, I enjoy talking to you, but I have a work style that doesn’t do well with too many interruptions. You have a habit of popping in when you have a funny story or something interesting to share, and while I’d be glad to hear those things over lunch, it’s becoming a problem for me when it happens during the work day.”

      1. LF*

        Alison, you’re totally right — I do need to be more direct about the broader pattern, as opposed to specific instances. On the other hand — and this is wishy-washy — it’s also important to me to occasionally listen to her stories, because I know that it positively contributes to her morale. It’s a competing consideration that has stopped me from asking her to cut out the stories entirely.

        In my perfect world, I would never have to listen to a story about how her friend who moved to North Carolina who has four kids and got a job offer from Washington rescinded the other day EVER again. I hate to act as if I don’t genuinely care about her as a human — I most certainly do — but her inane stories are a growing source of misery.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One way is to frame it as a problem you’re having and ask for her help in solving it. This wording isn’t exactly right, but the concept would be like, “If left unchecked, I would talk to you about kittens all day, so I have to enlist your help in keeping me from doing that. If you keep tempting me with good conversation, I will never get my work done, so you have to help me not fall into temptation.”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Although also, saying “hey, I can’t function with so many distractions” is not the same as saying you don’t care about her as a human. You say it nicely and you demonstrate that you do care about her as a human by treating her well, etc., but it’s entirely reasonable to assert your need for focus and fewer interruptions. If she takes that badly, it’s on her her — because this is work, and you’re nicely asserting a reasonable boundary.

    3. Clever Name*

      I shared an office with a woman like this. It was pretty awful. The worst part was she was a genuinely nice person, but I grew to hate her. She would tell me really personal stuff that I just didn’t want to know.

  17. Gene*

    “I’ve noticed we’re having trouble getting through all the topics we need to discuss and sticking to our scheduled time. Can you help me make sure that we stick to the agenda and the time we’ve set aside?”

    I would add something more direct, like, “Unless your comment is needed because this will send us down the Rabbit Hole of Caerbannog, keep it to yourself and we’ll discuss it after the meeting.”

  18. Sascha*

    Don’t forget the Office Patriarch/Matriarch (who needs to “take care” of all younger/newer employees) and the PTO Police. Often one in the same!

    1. Laura*

      Ugh, YUP. I’m the youngest person in my office (at 29!) and one woman always takes it upon herself to fix my collar if it’s out of place, or comment about what I did with my hair that day. I know she doesn’t mean it condescendingly, but I’m not “cute.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Oh, but you are dear, and if you would just not wear those awfully revealing blouses and do something nicer with your hair, you’d be so much more attractive to the men. You have such a pretty smile!

      2. krisl*

        I don’t like it when people I barely know touch me, even if it’s to fix my collar, and I would probably cringe when someone tried that.

    2. Chinook*

      I will admit to a bit of mothering of few colleagues. I first noticed it when a bunch of them had their monitors at the wrong level and it hurt my back to see them slouched all day. On the plus side, I only mentioend it once, told them who to contact for an ergonomics assessment and let it go. But heaven help the newbies (fresh out of university) whom I have told I will actively give advice to about how to be a good colleague (i.e. don’t walk away from a jammed copier, speak up when you don’t seem to be getting the emails about food in the coffee room). Two of them unleashed a small, friendly lecture when they asked about vacation accrual and temp contracts.

      1. Call Me*

        Concern about workplace halth and safety is not the same as “mothering”, it is a legitimate matter to speak to colleagues about.

  19. Lily in NYC*

    I want to add a category that seems to happen mainly in NYC, L.A. and DC: The Starf*cker. We have a lot of people here who are very impressed with their own credentials and the people they know. They try to be subtle with the name-dropping but they just end up sounding like idiots.

    1. Sascha*

      Oh it happens everywhere, I think, just in different manifestations. My manager likes to name drop VIPs he goes to meetings with, and the particular building they met in – “Smith Hall” is where the university president and all the VPs office. It’s really comical when he does it in his out of office messages – for 1 hour meetings.

    2. Clerica*

      Oh, Jeez, this is so the guy who just started a couple months ago. At the first staff meeting he was introducing himself and saying he came from doing such-and-such and has a book deal…I forget what for…but “I have Has-Been’s email! If anyone wants to talk to Other Has-Been, I got that too!”

      I don’t care if you called up Daphne du Maurier on the effing Ouija board, dude. No one cares and it in no way applies to this job. Also, I haven’t heard a word about the “book deal” in two months. Did Omnific go out of business already?

      The weird thing is, we have a similar sense of humor and I’d love talking to him if he didn’t have such an inflated ego. A coworker said one day, “He’s like you, but you’re funny and he’s just obnoxious.”

  20. Bea W*

    What do you do with the guy who lets one fly on a regular basis? Air freshener? A cork? An anonymous gift of underwear with the charcoal filter? Moving his desk outside?

    1. Sascha*

      My husband had one of those guys at his work, and he sprayed him with a compressed air can every time he farted. Like dog training. Worked like a charm.

    2. MaryMary*

      What do you do when that guy is your boss? Or more senior than you (no direct reporting relationship)? Spraying him with anything is not an option.

        1. Bea W*

          I fantasize about doing this, but I just don’t have the guts. I’d think it would be hilarious, but I’m pretty sure everyone I have to work with would be totally grossed out and not look at me the same way ever again.

      1. EG*

        Buy one of those automatic air fresheners for boss’s office, or your office if that’s where most incidents occur. That was the solution for my company’s owner. He seemed oblivious to the situation, and no one really dared to tell the owner. Also this prevented the mixing of spray can air freshener scents that tended to happen when the offending odor wandered into multiple departments (apple cinnamon and white linen don’t mix well).

  21. amp2140*

    For the monopolizer… I heard the best response ever (only works if you’re the same level)

    In the middle of yet another derailing, the meeting organizer spoke up and just said ‘X, you’re smothering the discussion.’

    Ahh, beautiful silence.

    1. TL*

      “let’s table this for later” or “let’s take it offline later” is how we address it. Which is nice, because it doesn’t invalidate anyone’s contribution, but it does make people aware that we need to be respectful of time.

  22. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Oh, but what about the Black Hole?

    Emails, phone messages, emergency teapot design adjustments that need to be sent to the head designer yesterday…all disappear with nary a trace.

  23. Maxwell Edison*

    I want to add the Space Invader. This person will barge into your cube without asking permission or even saying hello, or will tuck your tag into your shirt without telling you beforehand, or will stand just a little too close when talking to you.

    1. stellanor*

      I have a bad startle reflex. One time one of my coworkers grabbed my shoulder when I didn’t know she was there and I did a little scream. She never did that again.

  24. Vicki*

    What is the Meeting Monopolizer is the manager?
    (Or the manager is one who doesn’t appreciate anyone “taking over” control of his meeting, e.g. by saying the things suggested in the post.)?

    1. Malissa*

      Meeting Bingo. Have a sheet with topics that aren’t supposed to come up but do and cross them off on by one as the monopolizer brings them up.

  25. Mister Pickle*

    *sigh* I am sometimes guilty of Know-It-All-ness.

    My only current Problem Co-Worker is – let me choose my words carefully – “chronically ill-tempered”.

    1. Biff*

      I’m short-tempered, and I work in a business that seems to be attractive to button pushers. I am certain I come across as a little cloud that ruins the sunshine.

      Yes, I am looking.

  26. stellanor*

    I have a Work-Related Busybody. We work on totally different projects and there is no need for her to know anything about the stuff I’m working on, but she likes to corner me and demand the juicy details anyway. This seems to be so 1. she can make sure I’m not being given more authority than she is, and 2. so she can try to muscle in on anything she thinks sounds fun or like it could advance her position.

    I’m not sure what to do about it. So far I’ve been sticking with “I don’t know yet” or “Sorry, I need to concentrate on this right now.” (“Conveniently”, she usually decides to conduct these interrogations while I am busy with something requiring a lot of concentration. Busy editing a file that will implode dramatically if I make one typo? TIME FOR A CHAT!)

  27. HappyDay*

    I just reveived a promotion and fired the immature and thoughtless person that became one of my workers. Of course, she brought it on herself. After three written warnings, I let her go. Our office is much happier now that she’s gone.
    Speak to your manager aabout the problems your coworker creates. They may be able to help change the behavior or become aware of the situation to start writing them up. Encourage your other coworkers to do the same. A happy environment makes for happier workers.

  28. CAndy*

    Find it a bit odd that you choose to use female personal pronouns lots of the time, yet the Know-It-All is somehow a definite “he”.

  29. Call Me*

    I think I might come across as being a bit of a grump sometimes. I have a painful chronic condition and when it is in pain mode, I sit at my desk, do my work and tough it out. Of course I am pleasant and polite, there is just nothing leftover for chit chat.

  30. AnotherTeacher*

    Something I’ve learned is that the Busy Body is also often the Gossip/Town Crier, taking details you’ve shared and twisting them into “news” or blowing things out of proportion.

  31. tomatonomicon*

    Aside from the team photo at the beginning and the group photo of “the monopolizer,” all of the photos of annoying coworkers are women. Even in “the monopolizer,” the woman is the one talking. I’m sure this is an unfortunate coincidence, but I feel compelled to point it out.

  32. AnonyMostly*

    Ugh. Our slacker is out on leave and her buddy the office bully tried to rope me in because the slacker’s job were falling on her. I guess it made sense as we(another teammate) carried a lot of the responsibilities. We should have spoke up –but we are really limited and powerless yet we are held accountable for our dept. (Two different bosses) So I’ve been the grump lately. So it’s just me, the monopolizer and a fresh fish out water, who is filling in for the slacker.

  33. rebecca*

    I have a coworker that I would classify as the ‘annoying’ guy. He tells bad and annoying jokes all the time, that sometimes border on the inappropriate. Good example would be the time two men in the office were switching desks, both were 60ish, but otherwise had nothing in common. Annoying guy told one of them, Bob, ‘once you switch with Bill, it is not going to change too much, it will be just like sitting near a grumpier Bob.’ Bob gave him a look, and I pointedly said ‘I don’t get it.’ Another time, he told me that he calls an guy named Sam in our office ‘samosa’ (Sam is of Indian decent). And yes, our office has periodic diversity training.

    A lot of people in the office try to avoid him, and he picks up on this. He has told me that he does not think they understand his sense of humor. That would be an understatement. I am friendly to him because I believe its important to be friendly with everyone, but I cannot stand him myself. He and I are of the same ethnic group, and he brings this up at every opportunity possible. This can get a little embarrassing. Every time the topic of age comes up, he acts like he had no idea i was over 30, and expresses shock that I am over 30 (I am 33). I finally told him that I was surprised that he was surprised, since we have that same conversation about once a month.

    Anyway, I am surprised ‘annoying guy’ didn’t make the list, I feel like this phenomenon must occur in other offices.

  34. S from CO*

    At my office-
    My boss is The Meeting Monopolizer and The Know-it-all (can’t wait to get a different job)!
    The payroll clerk is the Busy Body (I just say hello and move on)
    One coworker is The Slacker (he is a nice/helpful person…I just try to ignore his bad work habits)
    New employee in the accounting department is The Chatterbox and The Loud Mouth (& a very nice/friendly person with a positive attitude)
    Another coworker is The Grump (I try to avoid him)!

  35. Willow+Sunstar*

    My coworker is a combination annoying co-worker. He’s a chatterbox, a one-upper, a know-it-all, the well-meaning incompetent (which isn’t in this list), and a busybody. What do you do with the one who is most of the above? I keep trying to tell him that I am busy and doing my work, but it doesn’t work and he does not take subtle hints. I’ve tried bringing my obnoxious-sized gaming headphones to work and pretending to ignore him. Even that doesn’t work. Then he pesters me constantly in IM, even though I have asked him multiple times to “please leave me alone while I am busy working.”

    I think he has Aspergers or something like that…he is definitely showing signs of issues.

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